Jail officials let inmates go free early

April 24, 2012
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  An investigation has found that officials at Nakhon Si Thammarat Central Prison allowed inmates to use banned items – for cash – and secured a reduction in punishment for some.

“A drug convict on death row has been said to have behaved well and because of that he has now been ordered to serve just 33 years in jail. He’s confident he will be able to walk free soon too,” Nakhon Si Thammarat police chief Maj-General Ronnapong Saikaeo said yesterday.

He said police now had evidence solid enough to see prison officials’ assets seized.

Ronnapong spoke after more than 600 officials conducted a surprise search of the local jail on Sunday, which uncovered hundreds of mobile phones, weapons and illicit drugs.

He insinuated that many drug traffickers were able to get their jail terms commuted through good-behaviour reports because of corrupt ties with prison officials.

“We have had evidence that some inmates are engaged in drug trafficking even when they are behind bars. They will be prosecuted again and get additional punishment,” Ronnapong said.

Some 30 to 40 per cent of officials at the prison were clearly involved in bringing banned items such as phones and drugs to inmates, he said. Recordings showed someone hurling boxes of mobile phones into the jail and officials were seen collecting them.

“Police have sweated to arrest drug convicts. But when they are behind bars, they can continue their illegal trade with help from prison officials,” the officer complained.

All inmates at the Nakhon Si Thammarat Central Prison were required to undergo urine tests yesterday to determine whether they had used illicit drugs.

Ronnapong vowed to take tough action against offending inmates and prison officials.

He said he had raised the issue of corrupt officials with Corrections Department director-general Suchart Wong-ananchai.

Justice Minister Pracha Promnok said the probe into wrongdoing at the Nakhon Si Thammarat prison had clearly implicated many officials and was likely to reveal similar offences at other correctional facilities too.

“We have tapped cellphone signals coming out of prisons,” Pracha said.

Ronnapong said records from the seized phones were very useful in investigating others involved in drug trafficking.

“At this point, we have found links to inmates at Bang Kwang Prison too. These involved inmates have had connections in Laos and Myanmar,” he said.

In a related development, Pol Colonel Dussadee Arayawut, secretary-general of the Office of the Public Sector Anti-Corruption Commission, revealed yesterday that a probe by his agency had found three officials at Rattanaburi Prison guilty of bringing illicit drugs to inmates.

Illicit drugs and many banned items were found at Rattanaburi Prison in Surin when a surprise search was conducted last year.

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